Fundamentalism And Women’s Rights in Africa

A paper presented at the 2006 African Feminist Forum

, by The African Feminist Forum

The essential paradox about a globalised world is that as global business and micro
politics have relentlessly spread across the globe, there has been a tendency for many
people to get closer to the ethnic, national, religious and racial identities. This nestling
within a known identity has been seen as a form of seeking certainty and belonging in a
world in which political, social and economic boundaries are being challenged and
eroded. It has resulted in an increase not only in conservatism but in religious
fundamentalisms, and right wing nationalism based on notions of ethnic, racial and
religious community identity.
This has conferred enormous power on the religious right. These fundamentalists have
served to cement the already vulnerable positions of women in many countries and
communities. The convergence of armed conflict and reduced levels of social cohesion
and religious and ethnic fundamentalisms have often dramatically worsened the social
and economic position of women. The definition of collective identities has framed
approaches to gender. There are for example, notions of what Muslim or Christian should
look like, behave which are seen as integral to belonging. It explains in part, the
continued emphasis on controlling sexuality and other critical aspects of women’s lives.
It is also seen to decrease the social and economic power of men in vulnerable contexts
which in turn strengthens the desire to exercise power and control in other contexts,
namely the family and women. This fundamentalist mobilising of concepts such as
nationalism, ethnicity and religion, has led to changing forms of patriarchal control and
generally increased levels of violence against women and children